This morning we strimmed around 12 fruit trees and weeded within protective fencing, at Puttenham's Hog's-back Orchard. We found Dogwood and other woody plants colonising extensive areas of the meadow to the detriment of chalk grassland species, as shown in the photos below
In order to control these woody plants, chalk grassland and other unimproved meadows need to either be grazed during spring and autumn periods or cut biannually in early spring and late summer. By cutting or grazing during the growing season this removes the woody biomass, that can otherwise persist in meadows, if cut outside the growing season.
Conducting ecology surveys around the South East, Gareth makes time to visit lots of Community Orchards. These visits are invaluable to see where different orchards sit in the landscape, how other groups utilise the orchard space, maintain their orchards and whether there are lessons to be learnt and knowledge gained for our COPSE Orchards.
Whilst surveying the rich landscape west of Newbury, Gareth visited Barn Crescent Orchard, planted in 2012. The Orchard is within a small piece of land located to the rear of the Crescent, with a small copse planted during Lockdown 2021. A fitting memorial for these times!
Watts Gallery Orchard was visited to check upon four fruit trees ring-barked by deer during a cold-snap in winter 2021, between fence repairs. The Estate’s team acted quickly to resolve the situation by patching up the wounded trees and to repair fencing to prevent further damage.
We were pleased to see all the trees alive, generally looking healthy and most with fruit. The Orchard was looking beautiful with yellow blossoms of wild parsnip, mullein and fleabane in full-glory. The fruit trees are likely to have fared well after the deer damage, following a relatively wet summer… finger-crossed for these trees next year.
COPSE conducted an engagement event, inviting Plot-holders to share thoughts on a new Community Orchard adjacent to their Allotment site. Despite heavy rain eight plot holders (from four plots) and several dog-walkers met with us. Concerns and queries included:
Who will manage the orchard;
Is the soil good for fruit trees;
Will the orchard attract undesirable visitors?
The retention of the existing mature oak and birch trees was also a concern of plot-holders and has been a common theme with much of our feedback to date. A second Allotment Engagement event is planned for late July, hopefully during nice weather!
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Gareth is an ecologist interested in conserving traditional orchards and heritage fruit, for people and wildlife.